London Design Festival (LDF), from 14 to 22 September, twelve days of exhibitions, workshops, lectures, presentations and parties across the English capital. The 2011 edition received about 350.00 visitors, and this year, the tenth anniversary of this long week of design, it had programmed over two hundred activities. It was therefore almost impossible to walk around London and not to encounter one of his flashy signs, strategically placed on sidewalks, announcing the approach of some event.
The route would start from West London, or Brompton Design District (some sectors have their own name and identity within the festival), thirty different events from Kensington Road to Sloane Square, upmarket area of the British capital, and of course the events at the Victoria & Albert Museum , now the epicenter of the festival and therefore inescapable, a museum that has managed to differentiate itself and to compete on equal terms with other major museums like the Tate Modern. Visiting the V&A was a little bit dissapointing: 3D experiments, new technologies, large panels, but little graphics.
The second mandatory objective was 100% Design , a fair entirely dedicated to product design and which included the presence of large international firms –including several Spanish products from Patricia Urquiola– that was the initial seed for more than fifteen years of this long week of design.
The surprise of the day was hiding in the 4 Cromwell Place, an old nineteenth century building converted into an eclectic cultural space during the LDF, with twelve experimental exhibition designers, creators and authors focused on changes in consumer habits.
Behind the last door on the third floor we could find the project Out of Print that combining technologies from different eras and reflected the saturation of we suffer nowadays. The approach was simple: join words from the titles of different media, including The Guardian or Vice magazine, in a completely random way, in order to create new titles, that are confused and apparently meaningless, but that show how easily we can get lost in the information process. The result were phrases like “Merkel can buy latest iPhone” or “Facebook Activists arrested.”
In order to develop the experiment the authors, James Cuddy, Roma Levin, Danilo Di Cuia and design graders Goldsmiths College, have unified digital technology with letterpress. Through the user-friendly software we can generate quotes, register them and ‘tuit’ them to enter in the ‘ printer queue’. The printed posters were hung in the exhibition and were sold for ten pounds. Although currently it only works in person, they expect that soon it could be activated online.
The following route was discovering East London, now a vibrant place for ideas and projects. Unlike the West, here the exhibits and events were held in small workshops and studios, without big names on them. I started by visiting Clerkenwell, in particular by the Craft Central , a nonprofit organization that has been investing for more than twenty years in craftsmanship and design. The exhibition held during LDF was Inspired by London: illustration, fashion, jewelry, textiles and product, the work of six designers and artists who are united by their passion for London.
Among them, there was amazing work of Vic Lee , illustrator, with the mission of portraying all London neighborhoods that have still some charm. His works, screen printed by hand in limited editions, are a mixture of humour, documentation and lots of letters.
Later, I went with little faith the Old Truman Brewery in Brick Lane, one of the oldest breweries in London –now converted into a collection of buildings dedicated to art and culture– where two simultaneous events were held: Tent London and Super Brands London , both dedicated to interior design, product and furniture, and unlike 100% Design the projects includes experimental and small firms. Among all the chairs, lamps, tables, rugs covers mobile and I found the booth of the School of Art and Design in Bath with a small but interesting representation of the Graphic Design BA projects. Three works keep my attention: the project Remaining Ink, a group of students willing to save the extra ink from the printing workshop school, that is thrown at the end of the year and they manged to print 402 posters; the work with typographic blocks of Anna Serocold, accompanying his final research; and the work of Cecilia Zaratiegui-Redondo that explores the use of unusual materials in graphic design.
There were still two more sections in the east for visiting, the Shoreditch Design Triangle 2012 and London Fields Design District. The first consisted of thirty-two galleries, shops, restaurants and studios located on an axis between Old Street and Shoreditch High Street, or , the cultural and experimental London. One of the most notorious was the Graphic Design Walk and in which several design studios open their doors. Along the promenade there was an exhibition at the gallery 71a whose theme was proportions, the correct relationship between objects or parts of a whole. I found quite interesting some of the projects, for instance those of Astrid Stavro, related to golden proportions, Veronica Fuerte from Heystudio with a proposal inspired by the Mecanos, or Aoife Mooney , with a much more calligraphic, experimenting with forms and altering its proportions.
Down the road the watch brand Uniform Wares organized the exhibition 12:24 , twelve artists, twelve posters produced in an edition of twenty-four copies each inspired by the twenty four hours of the clock. The artists answered a briefing in which they were asked to show a pivotal moment in their work routine, and it was quite interesting the work of the English artist Anthony Burrill, with a predominant use of typography and strong messages.
The street party in Hewett Street was the final closure in this area, with food, drink, music, stalls with local shops and galleries, non-profit auctions and three exhibits, with the goal of involving the community local. The graphics of the event requires some mention, with the legacy of English punk on one hand, photocopying and DIY style still present, but with a modern touch by using two inks, one flour, and fonts that imitate handwriting.
To complete the chronicle of this design festival, I moved further east, close to the London Fields, an area that has been revitalised thanks to the efforts made for the Olympics, and where debuted very humbly the London Fields Design District , six small studies and workshops which were opened during the LDF. From East London Print Makers, a printing office for artists n space for artists (screen printing and engraving) for artists, where there was exhibition and workshops, or the East London Design Show , organized by the studio and creative space Emigre Studios, with objects of various kinds, such as posters, toys, textiles, clothing and of course a final party using two shipping containers that were “hosting” the event.
In conclusion, an event dedicated to industrial and product design with some samples of illustration and graphic design. With an enviable staging and an amazing care on every detail –lets remember that the festival identity was designed by Pentagram– its is certainly a landmark and remarkable event.
*This article was first published in Graffica.info, October 10, 2012.